At the time of Independence, India comprised British India and the Princely States. The Princely States covered about two fifths of the geographic territory. While the Indian Independence Act ceded control of British India to the Indian Government, rulers of the Princely States were given the option to decide whether they wanted to accede to India or Pakistan or neither. In these circumstances, Sardar Patel took up the monumental challenge of accession of the princely states and integrating them into the Union of India. 

The goal Patel envisioned was that of a strong and United India.

The path was characterised by steep challenges. The process encumbered by the onerous expectations of the princely states. There were several difficulties. Plenty of surprises. And many twists and turns as the process of accession unfolded.

These hurdles were overcome one by one as Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon began the enormous task of integration. Together, they brought about the unification of these princely states with the Dominion of India in record time. In no other nation or era has integration of such a vast population comprising such diverse people taken place within such a short span of time. 

The peaceful accession of over 560 Princely States into the Union of India is one of Sardar Patel's most lasting legacies. 

This timeline identifies major landmarks in this saga of Accession that gave shape to modern India.



The Saga of Accession Unfolds

Princely states comprised two fifths of the territory of India at the time of Partition. The decision to join India or Pakistan or remain independent was left to the rulers of these states. Never before in history had such a diverse group of people consisting of so vast a population, sought to be integrated into one nation. Nevertheless, Sardar Patel took up the mantle in accomplishing what was to be his most lasting legacies.

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25th June 1947

States Department formed under Sardar Patel

Proposal for creation of the States Department to assist the Government in the monumental task of accession of princely states is cleared by the Cabinet of the Interim Government. Sardar Patel is allocated charge of this department. Thus begins the most crucial chapter in the history of India's geography.

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Menon appointed Secretary of States Department

On 15th August, 1947, having realised the dream of freedom, V.P. Menon wished to retire from Government service. Instead, Patel offered him the Secretaryship of the States Ministry to assist in the challenging task of accession of princely states. This is not the time to rest or retire, Patel said to Menon. With that, Menon came on board. Together the two men formed a formidable team in accomplishing the monumental task of Accession of 565 princely states into the Indian union.

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June, 1947

Nizam of Hyderabad seeks sovereignty for state

Nizam Mir Usman Ali Khan Bahadur of Hyderabad issues a firman declaring that upon the hour of freedom on 15th August, 1947, Hyderabad would become an independent sovereign, joining neither India nor Pakistan.

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Jodhpur accedes to India after much drama

The Maharaja of Jodhpur had been given a blank paper by Jinnah asking him to fill out therein, any conditions he wanted for acceding to to Pakistan. Geographically, Jodhpur was suited for joining Pakistan. But jagirdars and other leaders in the state were opposed to this idea. And hence, the Maharaja hesitated and took his time to decide on Jinnah's offer. When V.P. Menon met him to disucss the question of acceding to India, the Maharaja pulled out his pistol in the heat of the negotiations. But finally he acceded to India. A result of Sardar Patel's diplomacy and statesmanship.

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After nursing dreams of independence, Bhopal finally accedes to India

The Nawab of Bhopal wished to join neither India nor Pakistan. He wished to remain independent. After several meetings and lengthy discussions with Lord Mountbatten and V.P. Menon, the Nawab signed on the dotted line.

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July 1947

Travancore announces Independence, eventually joins India

Travancore had announced that it would assert its right to remain independent giving a boost to other states that nurtured similar dreams. The Raja of the state finally came on board after much reconsideration and deliberation. This decision had a distinct impact on the rulers of other states who were as yet undecided on the issue of Accession.

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15th August, 1947

Twist in the Tale : Junagadh accedes to Pakistan

In an unexpected twist in the Saga of Accession, the Nawab of Junagadh accedes to Pakistan. The Nawab, an eccentric of sorts, who spent a fortune in the upkeep of his pet dogs finally escaped to Pakistan along with his dogs while leaving behind in a hurry, his child and wife. Despite this instrument of accession, Junagadh finally integrated into India. A diplomatic success of Sardar Patel's untiring efforts.

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September 1947

Baroda accedes to India, then bargains for more

Baroda was one of the first states to sign the Instrument of Accession in favour of India. But soon thereafter, when the situation in Junagadh had given rise to turmoil in Kathiawar, the Raja of Baroda sensed an opportunity to bargain for more. Moreover, he began to make huge withdrawals from the State Treasury and used his position to have them written off. Flatly refusing to entertain the unreasonable demands of the Raja, Sardar ensured he soon towed the line.

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26th October 1947

Under attack from Pakistan, Kashmir declares Accession to India.

Raja Hari Singh of Kashmir was undecided about accession. His territory was situated right in the middle of the two nations and his state had a large percentage of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists. He acceded in pressing circumstances, pleading to India to come to his aid to defend Kashmir against the attack from armed Pakistani tribals. India agreed to help him. Provided he signed on the Instrument of Accession first.

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20th February 1948

Landmark Referendum at Junagadh

When normalcy returned, a Plebiscite was conducted in Junagadh to ascertain the choice of the people of the state, given the peculiar nature of the circumstances there. An overwhelming majority cast their votes in favour of India.

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21st September, 1948

Fearing Burma, Manipur finally comes on board

Manipur accedes to India after much uncertainty. Comprising a very diverse population of tribals and facing mounting threats from communist groups of Burma, the Raja of Manipur finally decided to throw in his lot with India.

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